About Christmas TV History

Monday, February 9, 2015

Jeffersons Christmas (1978)

I enjoy honoring Black History Month (BHM) on my blog because there are so many excellent Christmas episodes, specials and TV movies with exceptional African-American cast members.  There are also many outstanding and touching Christmas TV story lines aimed at black audiences.  This month I'm highlighting just a few of my favorites.

This spin-off series was on the air for 11 seasons, 1975-1985.

A couple years ago, I shared about the 1977 Christmas episode of The Jeffersons--not only one of my all-time favorite holiday episodes but also one of my favorites of the entire series.  Since then, several of my regular readers have commented about how much they love the 1978 Christmas episode too.  So I thought it might be fun to re-visit it and consider its strengths.

George is excited about who he bumped into on the street--Uncle  Buddy.

The fifth season's "George Finds a Father" has such an emotional story, it may be easy for some to forget that it takes place at Christmas time.  In this episode, George Jefferson returns home excited, eager to share with his wife Louise that he has invited a special guest for dinner tomorrow night.  He explains that a street corner Santa Claus revealed himself to be Uncle Buddy--the man who practically raised him.

Buddy was a father-figure to him after his father died--and an important friend of the family when they needed one most.
A best friend to George's father, Buddy had taken care of Mother Jefferson and kept George out of trouble after his father died.  Not having seen him in nearly forty years (Buddy had left to join the army just after the attack on Pearl Harbor), George has invited Buddy and his friend Zeke to come for a dinner.  Having heard story after story about Uncle Buddy over the years, Louise is eager to finally meet the man.  Louise also reminds George that they have already invited Helen and Tom Willis and Mr. Bentley for dinner in order to practice their caroling.  The group has plans to sing at the local children's hospital this holiday season.

Uncle Buddy and George begin reminiscing.  Buddy even states that those times were the best years of his life.

After Uncle Buddy arrives, he and George begin sharing wonderful stories from George's childhood.  The reunion is a powerful one for both men.  The Willises arrive and so does Mr. Bentley.  Before dinner is served, the group begins chorus rehearsal, hoping Uncle Buddy and his friend Zeke will enjoy the entertainment too.

There's a running gag in this episode.  As guests drop by the Jeffersons' apartment, Florence offers each one a Christmas cookie.  We see each guest's reaction as they taste the potent rum balls and choose to not finish it.

Zeke reveals a family secret even George doesn't know.

As Louise offers Zeke a cocktail, Zeke innocently remarks that he's surprised that Buddy and Mother Jefferson never married.  Louise comes to understand that Buddy and Mother Jefferson had been lovers all those years ago.  Anticipating that it will break George's heart, she sets out to avoid telling her husband while guests are in the house.

Louise insist they continue choir rehearsal but George wants to talk!

So George hurriedly sings all the verses to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by himself to end the song!

But George knows Louise is hiding something from him and he sets out to get her to reveal the secret.  As the group rehearses the traditional song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," George is too distracted to sing his part.  In a moment of levity during a heavy scene, George decides to sing the entire song's twelve verses all by himself just to end the song and demand Louise's full attention.  George eventually discovers the truth and confronts Uncle Buddy in the kitchen while he carves the turkey.

George is devastated to learn that Buddy had been more than an altruistic family friend.

Buddy slaps George for disrespecting his mother--and sets him straight.

George angrily asks Buddy how he could betray his best friend (George's father) by taking advantage of his widow.  Although Mother Jefferson has since died, George expresses disappointment in his mother's lapse in morality--and Buddy slaps George's face!  Buddy tries to explain that the death of George's father was devastating to both of them.  Buddy had asked Mother Jefferson to marry him but she refused.  And Buddy makes it clear to George that he loved him as a child--it had never been an act in order to seduce a little boy's mother.  However, George is so upset by this emotional reveal about his childhood that Buddy feels unwelcome and he sets out to leave. 

George is able to stop Buddy before he storms out.

Yes, the group has been singing their Christmas carols in the background the entire time!  We hear them sing both "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Silent Night" during the emotional confrontation.  Buddy exits the kitchen and heads towards the front door, grabbing Zeke to make their exit.  George follows him and rather than hurl more judgement and anger, George asks Buddy to stay for dinner.  It's a touching moment--fans of The Jeffersons know how stubborn George can be.  But this time, the dry cleaner has decided to get over his hurt feelings, hold his dear friend close and attempt a mature, compassionate understanding of his mother's grief and bonding.

In the end, everyone joins in singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" together.

If you think about it, we all may have experienced something similar--although perhaps not as dramatic.  Christmas time is often the time when adults reunite and share memories of the past.  Haven't you ever learned a family secret--or at least discovered something new about events from the past that you were too young to appreciate at the time?  I know I have.  I think that's what makes this Christmas TV episode a little better than some others.  It taps into a common experience at the yuletide.  With a bit of comedy around the edges, the story fleshes out some of the depths of George's feelings of betrayal.  I'm glad George finds the strength to not only forgive his Uncle Buddy but also to renew their friendship.  I'm a sucker for a happy ending at Christmas. 

Uncle Buddy is played by character actor Arnold Johnson.

This episode's guest cast may seem familiar to TV junkies.  Actor Arnold Johnson who plays Buddy was also frequent actor on Sanford and Son as the character Hutch.  Johnson also is the featured character in the 1975 New Year's Eve episode of Good Times entitled "A Place to Die."  The role of Zeke in this Jeffersons Christmas episode is character actor Raymond Allen.  He too appeared on Sanford and Son--as Aunt Esther's husband Woody--and on Good Times as Ned the wino.  And, Ja'net DuBois who sings "Movin' On Up," the theme song to The Jeffersons, also plays Willona on Good Times--but you knew that, right?


  1. I don't recall this episode. I used to watch this show it reruns as a kid, so maybe it is just too long ago to recall. Would love for MeTV to start airing it. :)